Erik_truffaz-mantis_span3
May 2002

Erik Truffaz
Mantis
Blue Note Records

French trumpeter Erik Truffaz is one of a handful of creative upstarts like Nils Petter Molv‘r, Russell Gunn and Tim Hagans who are embracing electronics, via drum 'n' bass, and jazz. On his third U.S. release for Blue Note, Truffaz continues melding his bold tones and melodic ingenuity to the fusiony fray with some obvious nods to electric Miles Davis and world beat in the process.

The trumpeter is at the helm of a crack outfit here that is grounded by the booming, woody-toned upright bass of Michel Benita, who is prominently featured on the melancholy ballad "La Memoire du Silence," and the remarkably athletic yet precise and flexible drumming of Phillippe Garcia. Guitarist Manu Codjia kicks in some ferocious fretboard flights that combine the sly, jazzy seasoning of John Scofield, the fierce abandon of Jean-Paul Bourelly and the mind-boggling legato flow of Allan Holdsworth along with the sheer freak-out quotient of Sonny Sharrock. Codjia's take-no-prisoners approach on two powerful tracks, "The Point" and "Saisir," earns him honorary guitar-hero status in my book.

For a lovely change of pace from the rock-fueled intensity of those pieces, Truffaz offers two intimate duets-one with oud master Anouar Brahem on "Nina Valeria," the other with Codjia's fingerstyle acoustic guitar on "Yasmina." Vocalist Mounir Troudi adds an authentic touch of exotica on the Middle Eastern-flavored "Magrouni," and Truffaz joins with bassist Benita and drummer Garcia (playing brushes) for a spirited acoustic version of drum 'n' bass on "Mare Mosso." And hold on for a minute or so past the final track, the engaging waltz-time ballad "Tahun Bahu." There's a surprise unlisted track that will blow your socks off-that is if you like your trumpet with a touch of wah-wah and your guitar with tons of distortion and a killer edge.

This is intelligent, uncompromising music happening in the now, played by musicians with serious chops, fertile imaginations and the courage of their convictions. Nastier than smooth jazz and naughtier than straightahead, it speaks to the converted and will probably alienate all the rest.

Originally published in May 2002
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